Wonderland.

PIPPA BENNETT-WARNER

The British actress talks typecasting, dream collaborations and Gangs of London.

Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length blue gingham
Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length blue top

Shirt and pants SHUSHU TONG, tights GUCCI, earrings ALGHIERI

Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length blue gingham
Shirt and pants SHUSHU TONG, tights GUCCI, earrings ALGHIERI
Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length blue top

Think about what you were doing at the age of 11. In all likelihood you probably weren’t making your West End debut – but not everyone has the ingrained tenacity of British actress Pippa Bennett-Warner.

Buckinghamshire-hailed Pippa started her career as Nala in The Lion King, and now with a career that has spanned nearly two decades, has made built a widely-respected name for herself across film, TV, theatre and even radio.

Highlights? Stints at Donmar Warehouse and National Theatre, recently-aired BBC Two series MotherFatherSon alongside Richard Gere, two seasons of Hulu/ITV period drama Harlots (with the third coming up), and highly-anticipated forthcoming Gangs of London with Joe Cole.

In between all the buzz, we caught up with the actress about Sex and the City freak outs, typecasting and dream collaborators…

Pippa Bennett-Warner in black jumpsuit
Pippa Bennett-Warner in black outfit

All clothing LOUIS VUITTON, earrings ALGHIERI

Pippa Bennett-Warner in black jumpsuit
All clothing LOUIS VUITTON, earrings ALGHIERI
Pippa Bennett-Warner in black outfit

Hi Pippa, how are you?
I’m very well thank you. 

MotherFatherSon was met with rave reviews – did you expect it to be so successful?
I thought it was a really interesting piece. The world, the characters, the storylines. I don’t know if I ever expect anything to be a success, but just hope that people will enjoy the material as much as I have.

What do you usually look for in a role?
Good writing is always top of my list and an interesting story. I’m quite specific about the roles I like to play. I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing when a part isn’t for me or if there’s someone else who could do it way better than I could. 

Is there any type of role you haven’t tried yet that you’d love to try next?
I normally don’t ever know what I want to do until I see it or read it, if that makes sense. At one point I was really looking for a comedy and then Sick Note came along, but usually I take it script by script and see what resonates. 

Who would you love to work with next?
I’m going to say Barry Jenkins, Keegan-Michael Key and Frances McDormand. 

You’ve also got thriller series, Gangs of London coming up – what is it about and who do you play in it? What are you most excited about in it?
It’s about different gangs in London and I play the daughter of a gang leader. I’m always a bit worried that I’ll give spoilers away so I’ll stop there, but I think it’s going to be a cool show. I’m most excited about the diversity of the cast. It was a very cool moment to see so many races and nationalities around the same table at the read-through.  

And you’ve got the new season of Harlots coming up – why do you think it’s been so popular?
I think there’s something in Harlots for everyone. It’s fun, sexy, it looks great but it also has heart and a serious side. Season three is going to be fab I think, it’s been nice to catch up with Harriet and see what she’s been up to.

Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length dancing
Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit
Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length

All clothing CHANEL, shoes ZIMMERMAN

Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length dancing
All clothing CHANEL, shoes ZIMMERMAN
Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit
Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow suit full-length

You debuted on the West End at the age of 11 – what’s been the biggest pinch-me moment of your career so far?
I’m a huge Sex And The City fan, and really loved the films and the music in them. I bought the soundtracks and the instrumental soundtracks and couldn’t stop listening to the latter. A few years ago I did an indie film called Wakefield with Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner, and our director – the wonderful Robin Swicord – told me that Aaron Zigman , who composed all the music for the SATC films, was going to be working on Wakefield. She introduced me to him at the pre shoot lunch and I was pretty uncool about it. Zero chill. He’s just so brilliant.

You’ve openly spoken in the past about being “typecast” – how do you feel about being a role model to young, black women, in particular aspiring actresses? Do you think things have gotten better in the industry?
The industry in this country has changed a lot since I left drama school – I think there’s more that needs to be done and that can be done but it’s going in the right direction. America always feel like a step ahead of us in terms of diversity but we are getting there. Slowly. Gosh, I’ve never thought of myself as being a role model to young black women and young black actresses. If I am, then hopefully I can continue to do my bit, as my black female role models have done before me, by breaking down some doors and smashing some ceilings. 

And you’ve got Real, a project written, directed and produced by a black filmmaker – do you actively seek out these type of roles – do you think this is the best way to enact change?
When I read the script I knew immediately that I wanted to do it.  The fact that Aki (Omoshaybi) had written it and was going to produce, direct and be in it aka he was going to wear all the hats made me want to do it even more. The fact that he was black made it all the more sweet. I think there are lots of ways to enact change but getting black people behind the camera, in writing rooms etc is a great place to start. There’s room at the table so why not!

What’s been the biggest surprise of your career so far?
That I still get to do what I love.

Who out of all your roles do you find you’ve related to the most?
A character called Alex who was in a play I did by Vivienne Franzmann at the Royal Court. She’s the character that’s been closest to me. Not necessarily because of what she had been through/goes through in the play but in essence.

What’s next for you?
I have another month left on Harlots 3 and I don’t finish shooting GOL until August. After that I’ll probably book a lovely sunny holiday! I’m really looking forward to Real being released. Aki has worked so hard on it, so I’m excited for him to be able to share it with audiences.

Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow ruffle top
Pippa Bennett-Warner in paisley dress

(LEFT) Dress GUCCI, earrings ALGHIERI
(RIGHT) Dress VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, tights GUCCI, earrings ALGHIERI

Pippa Bennett-Warner in yellow ruffle top
Dress GUCCI, earrings ALGHIERI
Pippa Bennett-Warner in paisley dress
Dress VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, tights GUCCI, earrings ALGHIERI
Photographer
Meara Kallista Morse
Stylist
Bo Dube
Thanks to
Indra Studios
PIPPA BENNETT-WARNER

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